Experience is the Best Teacher

Friendship is a strong and habitual inclination in two persons to promote the good and happiness of one another. – Eustace Budgell

I think a dunce cap is in order. Sometimes I am really quite dense. For all my wit and wisdom, I am daily faced with the reality that I am a fallible human.   Yet even as I face my own foibles, I am encouraged by the friends I have around me who handle me with care and gentleness.

I am a firm believer in the concept that when you are ready to handle something emotionally, you will. It will surface from inside, depths unknown, or it will come hurling at you from the outside world.  If it is inside we can let it bubble up and accept it or we can push it back down and deny. If it is thrown at us from the outside world, we can catch it, admire it and absorb it or we can throw it back.

I learned this week. Stuff bubbled up and stuff was thrown at me. My emotional intelligence was increased. I absorbed to my core the concepts of adoptee attachment and abandonment.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I always knew these things in THEORY. I respect them but I never really lived them first hand. I have this past week.

I am grateful to my adoptee friends for those lessons. As always, they are making me a more compassionate and understanding mother to a daughter surrendered to adoption.

My friend Leeza has been talking a great deal to me about her own processing and status of her recovery. She is currently very aware that she attaches quickly and deeply to females in her life.  Often too quickly, too intimately and too deeply. She notes she can be smothering and demanding. Most often, the females she attaches to are older, mother figure types. Since she can be so smothering and demanding the females often pull away from her, thereby perpetuating her cycle of being left by “mom” and being too much for someone to handle.

Not surprising at all since Leeza is an adoptee. She may be looking for mom in more ways than one. Attaching to anyone who resembles or gives her the support that she seeks from her natural mother seems reasonable to me.

I was intrigued by Leeza. I was wide eyed and absorbing every detail of her story. It’s foreign to me – both to myself as a female/daughter and as a mother in reunion.

As a daughter and a grown female, I more likely to be called attachment disorder affected. I don’t attach well to anyone, not deeply, let alone females. This has changed somewhat in recent years but over all, I can confidently say I am not someone who will not cling to you, depend on you, cherish you, call you, and become intimate quickly, if at all. I am cautious. Guarded.  Frankly, I feel I am safer alone and since I have done so very well for myself in that regard (right?) why bother getting attached to anyone? I don’t see the value. (If you want to get really clinical about this I believe that some of this is rooted in my infancy. I was a sick child from birth to age 5 and spent a good deal of time being hospitalized. I was not with my mother much – if at all – during standard bonding times. I was in the care of strangers.)

Added to my natural tendency is my reunion experience. My daughter is not the least bit interested in meeting, reuniting, developing a relationship with me – at this time. Perhaps I can accept it easier than some because I am also rather like her in keeping people at a distance.  I am a distant mom with a distant daughter. Nature or nurture?

Adoptees who attach to mothers? Adoptees who actively pursue a relationship with their mothers? Moms who push themselves on ambivalent adoptees? What the hell do those creatures look like? I haven’t a clue. At least not in relation to my daughter and myself.

I was intellectually stimulated when my friend told her tales of being instantly and deeply attached to female friends – and even to me in particular. Again, 20 something adoptee and 40 something mom.

As she talked, I became aware that I had the capacity to become her latest “victim”. She was so brutally honest with me I had some massive realizations about myself and other relationships I have had.

I have helped many female adoptees find their mothers. During the process of searching, we tend to get very close and they ask me about my story, mother’s feelings, what they should say and not say, their insecurities, fears and more. They are my good friends and I become one of theirs. They are amazing young women I am proud to know. Artists, musicians, writers, students, mothers and more abound my list of adoptee friends. I would have them as friends for sure even if our adoption trauma paths hadn’t crossed.

Where I was completely clueless is how that friendship could mean much more to them at a psychological level than it did to me.

With most of my female friends, if I don’t call them back right away (or at all), they just chalk it up to my quirkiness and chide me about it the next time we are together.  Yet some of my adoptee friends have intense feelings of anger.

Most of my female friends don’t care if I go out with a mutual friend and don’t invite them. Some of my adoptee friends go into fits of rage if I am with an adoptee friend other than them.

Most of my female friends wouldn’t be bothered if they pinged me on AIM and I told them I was chatting with someone else, please get back to me later.  Tell an adoptee you are talking to another adoptee friend and you cannot deal with her now? She gets very disturbed.

Of course, I saw this but erroneously chalked it up to immaturity on their part.

Duh.

Not exactly (perhaps it was more on my part).

In discussing with Leeza she got me to understand that for her, as an adoptee, particularly one who attaches to me as a friend and a mother figure (completely unknown to me), the seemingly annoying behaviors of mine trigger abandonment in her.

Oh. My. Word.

At first this made me want to withdraw. I don’t want that burden or responsibility. I am not their mothers. They have mothers. They want to find them. Also, I have had the challenging experience of extracting myself from a deep adoptee relationship when Mom entered the scene. It was hard for both of us. (Hello, boundaries?).  Moreover, silly me, I know, I kind of want to save my “mothering” for my daughter.  Right? 

Wrong.

I say wrong because with the help of my adoptee friends and their amazing self awareness we can talk about this stuff. We share our fears and anxieties and in the long run become better friends, mothers and adoptees.

I am very lucky to have them. Indirectly, so is my daughter.

2 Thoughts.

  1. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW. I toooooooootally love this blog. I DO THIS TOO! Attach to mother figure type women I mean. ALWAYS HAVE!! And About 2 years ago I really started to identify it and understand it, but didn’t really think it was a common thing. I KNEW a majority of adoptees have attachment issues, but not necessarily ones that play themselves out in THIS way.
    I used to think it was the possibility that these women *could* be my mother, or that I wished they were and I thought that these feelings would end when I finally found my mother. But it didn’t… not really.
    To be honest, I’m kind of getting pretty damn sick of this cycle! Like, when teacher doesn’t reply to an email I’ve sent, it triggers major abandonment and brings me down for days. All because I care too deeply about my relationship with people who would consider me as just one more person on their long list of minions. And it doesn’t help having 2 mothers who I feel are leeching off me.
    Annnyhow, AWSOME post Suz. LOVED it. Really normalized my experience.
    Great to finally catch up on your blog!
    Hope you’re still going well xoxo.

  2. I always enjoy reading your posts. You go everywhere! This probably is no jump start to anything, but I just want to say that daughters do have a tendancy to be competitive with their Mothers. To try to filter thru what makes them react will not work. To be competitive = barriers. And it is filed under, I really dont have time for this. And we are all selfish in this way. As you said, keeping people at a distant at this time is convenient at this time!

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